Friday, August 16, 2019

A History of Whitmore-Bolles Elementary

1927 Whitmore-Bolles School 
The history of Whitmore-Bolles begins in 1919 with the division of lands east of Monroe and south of Outer Drive. With the large growth in the community, a need for housing and schools arose. Laura Whitmore Bolles donated 3 acres of land behind the Whitmore family home, and an additional 6 acres of land was purchased in 1925 by the Board of Dearborn School District #7. Henry Vicary, a Dearborn architect, was chosen to assist the firm of George D. Mason and Company in designing the building. The school officially opened in September of 1927 with a teaching staff of 4 and an initial enrollment of 98 students. The official dedication of the school was held on May 14, 1928 in honor of the Bolles family. The dedication date also carries significance as the birth date of Laura Whitmore Bolles’ mother and her own wedding anniversary.
1927 Whitmore-Bolles School Hallway

During the Depression of the 1930s, the school was used as a soup kitchen. After World War II, a new wave of growth came to Dearborn. In 1940, with increasing enrollment, an additional wing was added to the school. The new wing added 8 classrooms and a kitchen. Enrollment continued to grow, reaching 1,400 students by 1951. The school boasted unique science programs, one of which was the Horticultural Gardens program started in the 1950s.

In 2013 with a desire for increased student security, Whitmore-Bolles parents raised more than $11,000 for the purchase of a new security system which featured a video camera and intercom at the building's main entrance and the delivery entrance allowing office staff to 'buzz in' visitors. Whitmore-Bolles was the first school in the district to implement the new security measures. In 2015 the main office and main daytime entry
Peace Poll from Whitmore-Bolles PTA during mid 2000's
doors were moved to the newer wing of the building adjacent to the parking lot. Along with added air conditioning and modern office layout, this move and reconstruction further enhanced security measures for the building allowing for a direct entrance into the office from the outside.

In June of 2019 Whitmore-Bolles received the prestigious Lighthouse Milestone certification through the international Leader in Me program. Lighthouse certification shows “schools have produced outstanding results in school and student outcomes,” according to Franklin Covey Co., owner of the Leader in Me program. The certification also recognizes the extraordinary impact the school is having on staff, students, parents and the greater community. Whitmore-Bolles is one of two Dearborn schools that received this certification and is one of only 518 schools certified world wide as of June 2019.

On March 11, 2020 Whitmore-Bolles was the first school to close in the State of Michigan due to the COVID-19 virus.  Families were informed that a staff member had 
2017 Battle Against Hunger collection in the new office
been in contact with a person with a confirmed case the COVID-19 virus. Out of an overabundance of caution the school was closed until test results could be confirmed and the school deep cleaned. The State later confirmed that the staffer did have COVID-19, but students were not exposed. By that point all schools in the state had closed and buildings remained closed the remainder of the school year while students continued their learning online.

On June 11, 2020, four months after the Whitmore-Bolles building closed due to COVID-19, the first ever "5th Grade Dream Cruise" took place. In accordance with social distancing guidelines the Dream Cruise started in the Whitmore-Bolles parking lot and families drove a predetermined route thru the SODA neighborhood in
SODA Celebrates the 5th grade class of 2020
celebration of the the 2020 5th grade promotion to middle school. The Whitmore-Bolles 5th grade class of 2020 missed out on much of their final days at Whitmore-Bolles, but the neighborhood came out and cheered them on as they took the next steps in their educational career.

Whitmore-Bolles currently serves over 400 students from the Southwestern Outer Drive Neighborhood of Dearborn annually. This includes over 300 general enrollment students in general education, Young 5's, and three special education programs. Additionally the school hosts several Great Start Readiness Program (GSRP) preschool classrooms.

The name Whitmore-Bolles honors two Dearborn Families; J.E. Bolles, the donor of the original site, and Laura Whitmore, who was also the niece of William Nowlin. When Mrs. J. Bolles donated the land, she requested that the school be named to honor both her family (Whitmore) and her husband’s family (Bolles).

Parts of this article were published in the SODA December 2014 newsletter and were provided courtesy of the Dearborn Historical Museum